Review: Witnesses ‘Doom II’

Unless you have had your head in the sand, you will have known that doom metal project Witnesses have recently released an absolutely incredible album, entitled Doom II, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. In light of these troubling times, it’s critical, now more than ever, that artists are still inspired, and creating monumental music, and none are doing so in a more interesting way then Witnesses, who have produced this real gem of an album.

Witnesses ‘Doom II’

Formed in 2016 by multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Greg Schwan, the goal of Witnesses has always been, and continues to be, the creation of evocative music that crosses genre lines. All principle writing and arrangement on Doom II was handled by Schwan, with vital contributions provided by instrumentalists, vocalists, artists, and photographers alike.

As of 2020, Witnesses has explored cinematic and ambient themes, with metal, pop, and folk elements, via the previous four albums and four singles. This latest opus happily adds to that impressive catalogue, taking another twist, and a new adventure.

Doom II is somewhat of an epic seafaring opera, more than just a ragtag collection of tunes, it follows a storyline, and as it plays through, we discover it’s a tale of disaster and despair. This is in no way an ‘Alestorm’ pirate rock affair, there are no sea shanties to sing along to, it’s far more a sombre tale, and at times its bitterly depressing.

Just to clarify, it’s the story, and not the soundtrack, that’s depressing, the music is absolutely spellbinding.

It’s a far more legitimate tale then any ‘Pirates Of The Caribbean’ movie could ever be, and its both engaging and enthralling. Just by gazing at the album artwork you should be able to tell what you’re getting yourself in to, this isn’t going to be a high seas jolly up, this isn’t going to end well at all.

The album consists of six songs about a plague born at sea, which makes it to land, to a village that hopes its story will not be forgotten. Opener On This Black Ocean sets the scene, it rumbles in with some wonderful Sabbathesque riffs, and when the vocal kicks in, it’sa surprisingly clear vocal, which I was not expecting at all.

All of my preconceptions are instantly shattered, this is doom laden music, but with a crisp clear vocal, which is refreshingly different, and through the multiple build ups and breakdowns in pace, it makes for a really cool juxtaposition, a real sense of the ebb and flow of the sea.

Doom II is somewhat of an epic seafaring opera, more than just a ragtag collection of tunes, it follows a storyline, and as it plays through, we discover it’s a tale of disaster and despair…

I Hope Their Prayers Aren’t Answered feels like a full-on assault, opening with a storm of blast beats and driving guitar.The mood drops, and descends into a darker depth, and a feeling of despair, and the realisation of a dire situation, with no apparent solution. From this point it’s now apparent this is going to be a sea bound disaster, it truly incapsulates the feeling of being shipwrecked, cast adrift, and the realisation of the possibility of never seeing home again.

As Who Were You Before All This opens, the shear mood and tone is that of hopelessness, and I for one truly feel the futility of it all through the music. This mood continues through the entirety of the whole album, it’s dark and brooding, and that feeling never really let’s up at any point.

An Ending closes the tale, and it’s filled with so many wonderful lines, ‘consider this ending, consider everything…’ and ‘erased and forgotten…’, let us know there is no rescue in sight. ‘These are my last words, spoken from another place, between two worlds….’, the end has come, and into the void, it closes around us, and it’s done.

Having come to this album expecting a durgy, dark, intense, and aggressive album, I’m completely blown away by what I’ve just experienced. It’s hard to slot Witnesses into any real category easily, yes, it’s doomy, but the vocal takes it to a completely new level, and it’s all the better for it.

With the subject matter, it feels imperative that the story is legible, so to have been able to aurally take any story from it would have needed a clear storyteller, and that’s what really makes this stand out from the crowd. If it had been a stereotypical ‘doom’ vocal, the story would have easily been lost, and that would have been a real travesty.

Considering the subject matter on Doom II, and it’s absolutely hopeless outcome, I’m still compelled to put it back on straight away, and relive the adventure I’ve just been on as this escape is more than a welcome one right now, and I embrace it with both arms.

Label: Independent
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Scribed by: Lee Beamish